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Chasing China's 'Big Fund'

Posted: 21 Jan 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:process technology  foundry  FinFET  Moore's law 

Micron on China in memory

Gartner and other analysts assume China will launch three major fabs by 2020 – one for NAND, DRAM and logic foundry. Indeed China is said to be most hungry for a stake in the memory chip business.

There are four memory fabs in China now. Hynix, Intel and Samsung each have large plants, but only one relatively small one is operated by a Chinese company, said Michael Sadler, vice president of corporate development at Micron in a talk at ISS.

Sadler also believes China's planners will bankroll more memory plants "and Micron is very interested in looking at opportunities," he told attendees. "Micron does more business in China than any other country, [that business is] growing dramatically [and it's] no secret China wants a seat at the table in tech development and how it's deployed in China," he added.


Currently XMC runs China's only locally owned memory fab, according to Micron. (Source: Micron)

For China, it's almost a matter of national security, and certainly one of economic security to produce more of the many memory chips it uses. Last year, investors in China reportedly bid in July $23 billion to buy Micron outright, a deal U.S. regulators would not approve, observers said.

After his talk, I asked Sadler what Micron wants in negotiations with China. He was clear the company wants capital, access to markets and a sustainable model that lets it operate in China. It does not want "to license its technology to seed a competitor," he said.

Micron has already had some experience with its own somewhat complicated joint venture in Taiwan, Iotera, co-owned by Formosa Plastics and Taiwan shareholders. The company bought out those owners to give it a more free hand in running the operation.

Sadler's position echoed what I had heard earlier in the day when I asked Tom Caulfield, general manager of Globalfoundries' Fab 8, his thoughts about China. "Will and money is not enough to get into this industry—they will need to find a collaborative model," he said.

In his talk, Hui argued you don't need bleeding-edge technology to win. SMIC has about 60 differentiated processes, including a low leakage 55nm technology great for IoT products it recently demoed with Brite Semiconductor, an innovator in visible light communications.

The details of a wining model for a new China chip venture are still unclear. But there's no doubt a lot of semiconductor executives are sharpening their pencils, making proposals and going through some tough negotiations in hopes of winning China's tech equivalent of Powerball.

- Rick Merritt
  EE Times U.S.

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